The home front directed factory production, agricultural output, and local community energies to the war effort in World War I. President Woodrow Wilson stated that ‘it is not only an army we must shape and train, but also a nation.’ National sentiment leaned mostly to isolation, but by 1917, the U.S. became increasingly involved overseas, culminating in its war declaration in April 1917. Local, regional energies and dozens of civilian and government committees were formed to contribute to the war effort. Communities saw it as a point of patriotic pride by ingratiating themselves with home front activities.

 

Alongside the Council on National Defense, women's groups were pivotal in orchestrating home front activities. The Women’s Land Army of America placed thousands of volunteers on farms and ranches to compensate for the loss of labor. Thousands volunteered for the Red Cross and the Women's Committee, whose primary goal was registering member’s skills and directing food donations. The Woman's Committee worked in conjunction with the US Food Administration and its director, future US President Herbert Hoover. Woman's Committee chapters operated locally, orchestrating food drives and agricultural practices in their community. Local food production was essential and securing enough for the armed services meant coming up with creative solutions at home that would not put additional pressure on the economy.

 

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(Meeting of the Woman's Committee with Council on National Defense, April 1918, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/26432765 )

 

One focus of the Woman's Committee was to educate children and participating in school activities. These primarily included teaching children how to start a local garden, run food drives, and taught them how to can food. Each of these taught children and their families how they could save and preserve their food supply. This allowed people to conserve and stretch their groceries further, which in turn a meant less food consumption. The Anti-Waste Campaign by the Food Administration collaborated with numerous local organizations to streamline the available food supply that was donated for the war effort and cut down on unnecessary food waste.

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(Firemen and members of the Community Canning Centre canning corn with the Food Administration, September 1917, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/31481413 )

 

Former NAWSA President Dr. Anna Howard Shaw was appointed Chairman of the  Woman's Committee and her connections with women's suffrage groups proved critical in coordinating home front logistics and having a ready supply of volunteers. Dr. Shaw’s efforts awarded her the Distinguished Service Medal, the first woman to receive the award. These interactions were not without some disagreements and compromises though. During the war, women's suffrage activism was largely suspended in order to support the war effort; suffrage organizations who participated in home front work received widespread acclaim during the war that later played a critical role in passage of the 19th Amendment.

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(Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, former President of NAWSA and Chairman of the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense, circa 1918, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/55164399 )

 

Womens organizations in World War I played a crucial role on the home front and integrated the war effort into every community and home. Their grassroots organization and volunteer efforts were all a pivotal component of the United States' home front effort to secure victory for Allied forces in the Great War.